Empire Builder
Overview
 
The Empire Builder is a passenger train route operated by Amtrak
Amtrak
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak , is a government-owned corporation that was organized on May 1, 1971, to provide intercity passenger train service in the United States. "Amtrak" is a portmanteau of the words "America" and "track". It is headquartered at Union...

 in the Midwestern
Midwestern United States
The Midwestern United States is one of the four U.S. geographic regions defined by the United States Census Bureau, providing an official definition of the American Midwest....

 and Northwestern
Northwestern United States
The Northwestern United States comprise the northwestern states up to the western Great Plains regions of the United States, and consistently include the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, to which part of southeast Alaska is also sometimes included...

 United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. It is Amtrak's busiest long-distance route and busiest daily train, carrying more than 500,000 travelers annually since 2007. Overall, it is the railroad's 10th-busiest line. Before Amtrak, the Empire Builder was the flagship train of the Great Northern Railway. The current route runs from Chicago, Illinois, to the Pacific Northwest
Northwestern United States
The Northwestern United States comprise the northwestern states up to the western Great Plains regions of the United States, and consistently include the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, to which part of southeast Alaska is also sometimes included...

.
Encyclopedia
The Empire Builder is a passenger train route operated by Amtrak
Amtrak
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak , is a government-owned corporation that was organized on May 1, 1971, to provide intercity passenger train service in the United States. "Amtrak" is a portmanteau of the words "America" and "track". It is headquartered at Union...

 in the Midwestern
Midwestern United States
The Midwestern United States is one of the four U.S. geographic regions defined by the United States Census Bureau, providing an official definition of the American Midwest....

 and Northwestern
Northwestern United States
The Northwestern United States comprise the northwestern states up to the western Great Plains regions of the United States, and consistently include the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, to which part of southeast Alaska is also sometimes included...

 United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. It is Amtrak's busiest long-distance route and busiest daily train, carrying more than 500,000 travelers annually since 2007. Overall, it is the railroad's 10th-busiest line. Before Amtrak, the Empire Builder was the flagship train of the Great Northern Railway. The current route runs from Chicago, Illinois, to the Pacific Northwest
Northwestern United States
The Northwestern United States comprise the northwestern states up to the western Great Plains regions of the United States, and consistently include the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, to which part of southeast Alaska is also sometimes included...

. The line splits in Spokane, Washington
Spokane, Washington
Spokane is a city located in the Northwestern United States in the state of Washington. It is the largest city of Spokane County of which it is also the county seat, and the metropolitan center of the Inland Northwest region...

, terminating at Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Seattle is the county seat of King County, Washington. With 608,660 residents as of the 2010 Census, Seattle is the largest city in the Northwestern United States. The Seattle metropolitan area of about 3.4 million inhabitants is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the country...

's King Street Station (2,206 miles, or 3,550 km from Chicago) in the north and Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

's Union Station
Union Station (Portland)
Union Station is a train station near the west shore of the Willamette River in the Old Town Chinatown section of Portland, Oregon, United States....

 (2,257 miles, or 3,632 km from Chicago) in the south.

The train passes through the states of Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

, Wisconsin
Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

, Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

, North Dakota
North Dakota
North Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America, along the Canadian border. The state is bordered by Canada to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south and Montana to the west. North Dakota is the 19th-largest state by area in the U.S....

, Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

, Idaho
Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

, Washington, and Oregon
Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

. Layovers (train service stops) are made in Saint Paul
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Saint Paul is the capital and second-most populous city of the U.S. state of Minnesota. The city lies mostly on the east bank of the Mississippi River in the area surrounding its point of confluence with the Minnesota River, and adjoins Minneapolis, the state's largest city...

, Minot, Havre
Havre, Montana
Havre is a city in, and the county seat of, Hill County, Montana, United States. It is said to be named after the city of Le Havre in France. The population was 9,621 at the 2000 census.-History:...

, and Spokane
Spokane, Washington
Spokane is a city located in the Northwestern United States in the state of Washington. It is the largest city of Spokane County of which it is also the county seat, and the metropolitan center of the Inland Northwest region...

. Other major stops on the route are Milwaukee; Fargo
Fargo, North Dakota
Fargo is the largest city in the U.S. state of North Dakota and the county seat of Cass County. In 2010, its population was 105,549, and it had an estimated metropolitan population of 208,777...

; Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish is a city in Flathead County, Montana, United States. The population was 5,032 at the 2000 census. It is home to a ski resort on Big Mountain called Whitefish Mountain Resort. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer hails from Whitefish....

; and Vancouver, Washington
Vancouver, Washington
Vancouver is a city on the north bank of the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington. Incorporated in 1857, it is the fourth largest city in the state with a 2010 census population of 161,791 as of April 1, 2010...

. Host railways include BNSF Railway
BNSF Railway
The BNSF Railway is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., and is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. It is one of seven North American Class I railroads and the second largest freight railroad network in North America, second only to the Union Pacific Railroad, its primary...

's northern route from Seattle to Minneapolis, Minnesota Commercial
Minnesota Commercial Railway
The Minnesota Commercial Railway is a short line railroad in the United States.This railroad operates out of the St. Paul area with service to Minneapolis, Bayport, Hugo, Fridley and New Brighton. It is considered a terminal and switching line. It is based out of a roundhouse on Cleveland Ave. in...

 from Minneapolis to St. Paul, Canadian Pacific from St. Paul to Glenview
Glenview, Cook County, Illinois
Glenview is a suburban village located approximately north of downtown Chicago in Cook County, Illinois. As of the 2000 census, the village population was 41,847...

, and Metra
Metra
Metra is the commuter rail division of the Illinois Regional Transportation Authority. The system serves Chicago and its metropolitan area through 240 stations on 11 different rail lines. Throughout the 21st century, Metra has been the second busiest commuter rail system in the United States by...

 from Glenview
Glenview, Cook County, Illinois
Glenview is a suburban village located approximately north of downtown Chicago in Cook County, Illinois. As of the 2000 census, the village population was 41,847...

 to Chicago.

One train passes in each direction daily. The schedule is timed so the train will pass through the scenic Rocky Mountains (especially Glacier National Park) during daylight, but this is more likely in summer and on eastbound trains. It normally takes 45 to 46 hours to travel the entire route, barring delays. This averages 50 miles per hour (22.4 m/s) including stops.

Route description

The modern westbound (Amtrak) Empire Builder departs Chicago's Union Station in early afternoon, and travels north to Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee is the largest city in the U.S. state of Wisconsin, the 28th most populous city in the United States and 39th most populous region in the United States. It is the county seat of Milwaukee County and is located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. According to 2010 census data, the...

. After leaving Milwaukee, it passes through the rural landscape of southern Wisconsin, crossing the Upper Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 at La Crosse, Wisconsin
La Crosse, Wisconsin
La Crosse is a city in and the county seat of La Crosse County, Wisconsin, United States. The city lies alongside the Mississippi River.The 2011 Census Bureau estimates the city had a population of 52,485...

. The train travels through southeastern Minnesota, crossing the Mississippi again at Hastings
Hastings, Minnesota
Hastings is a city in Dakota counties in the U.S. state of Minnesota, near the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers. The population was 22,172 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Dakota County. The bulk of Hastings is in Dakota County; only a small part of the city extends...

 and stops at the Midway Station
Midway (Amtrak station)
Midway Station is the Amtrak train station in Saint Paul, Minnesota, so named after the Midway area which is roughly halfway between the downtowns of St. Paul and neighboring Minneapolis. Its Amtrak station code is MSP and serves as the only intercity train station for the Minneapolis-Saint Paul...

 in Saint Paul
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Saint Paul is the capital and second-most populous city of the U.S. state of Minnesota. The city lies mostly on the east bank of the Mississippi River in the area surrounding its point of confluence with the Minnesota River, and adjoins Minneapolis, the state's largest city...

. From Saint Paul westward, the land changes from forest to prairie
Prairie
Prairies are considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome by ecologists, based on similar temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and grasses, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, as the dominant vegetation type...

, becoming less populous and relatively barren. Westbound passengers will see only the occasional mercury-vapor light of farmsteads in the distance at night. As the Empire Builder passes through North Dakota
North Dakota
North Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America, along the Canadian border. The state is bordered by Canada to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south and Montana to the west. North Dakota is the 19th-largest state by area in the U.S....

 and eastern Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

, the Northern Plains can be seen. Eventually, the train rolls past the prairies of North Dakota and Montana with three short stops near Glacier National Park (East Glacier Park [summer only] or Browning [winter only], Essex [a flag stop], and West Glacier Park) followed by a longer stop in Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish is a city in Flathead County, Montana, United States. The population was 5,032 at the 2000 census. It is home to a ski resort on Big Mountain called Whitefish Mountain Resort. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer hails from Whitefish....

 (not too far from Glacier National Park). Year round (depending on weather), the mountain vistas can be seen from the train as it skirts the southern edge of the park. As darkness descends again, the train continues through the mountains, including northern Idaho
Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

 and eastern Washington. In Spokane, the train splits, with the last four cars (Sightseer lounge, two Portland coaches, and the Portland sleeper) going down the Columbia River
Columbia River
The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The river rises in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, flows northwest and then south into the U.S. state of Washington, then turns west to form most of the border between Washington and the state...

 valley to Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

 and the other cars through the Cascades Range to Seattle.

During the summer months, on selected portions of the route, official "Trails and Rails" volunteers in the Sightseer Lounge car provide commentary about the history and sights of those portions. This commentary can only be heard in the Sightseer Lounge car.

On August 21, 2005, the train was "relaunched" by Amtrak with upgraded service. This included features not seen on other long-distance Amtrak trains: on the second day in mid-afternoon there is a wine and cheese tasting in the dining car for sleeping-car passengers. This includes not only information about the wines served but some questions; correct answers win passengers bottles of wine to take with them.

History

The original Empire Builder was inaugurated by the Great Northern on June 11, 1929, and displaced the Oriental Limited
Oriental Limited
The Oriental Limited was a named passenger train that ran between Chicago, Illinois and Seattle, Washington. The train was operated by the Great Northern Railway between St. Paul, Minnesota and Seattle, Washington, and by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad between St. Paul and Chicago...

 as the railroad's premier train. The new train was named in honor of railroad tycoon James J. Hill
James J. Hill
James Jerome Hill , was a Canadian-American railroad executive. He was the chief executive officer of a family of lines headed by the Great Northern Railway, which served a substantial area of the Upper Midwest, the northern Great Plains, and Pacific Northwest...

, known during his life as "The Empire Builder" who reorganized several failing railroads into the Great Northern Railway and extended the line to the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th century. The service was altered to carry additional passengers during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. After the war, new streamlined
Streamliner
A streamliner is a vehicle incorporating streamlining in a shape providing reduced air resistance. The term is applied to high-speed railway trainsets of the 1930s to 1950s, and to their successor "bullet trains". Less commonly, the term is applied to fully faired recumbent bicycles...

, diesel-powered trains were placed into service. This postwar service began on February 23, 1947. The train was fully re-equipped again in 1951.

The schedule of the route was optimized to allow riders views of the passing Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountain
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

 landscapes of Glacier National Park, a park that was established through the decisive lobbying efforts of the Great Northern. After it was re-equipped in the 1950s passengers viewed the route through its three dome coaches and one full-length "Great Dome" car for first class passengers.

There were two significant train wrecks involving the Empire Builder in the Great Northern era:
  • In 1931, an eastbound train near Moorhead, Minnesota
    Moorhead, Minnesota
    Moorhead is a city in Clay County, Minnesota, United States, and the largest city in northwest Minnesota. The population was 38,065 at the 2010 Census. It is the county seat of Clay County....

     traveling at nearly 60 miles per hour (96.6 km/h) was struck by a tornado
    Tornado
    A tornado is a violent, dangerous, rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. They are often referred to as a twister or a cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology in a wider...

     which derailed the train and flung one of the 83-ton coaches 80 feet (24.4 m) through the air, resulting in one death and 57 injuries.
  • In 1945, the Builder was operating in two sections (two trains immediately following each other) due to heavy wartime traffic. The second section plowed into the stalled observation car of the first in Michigan, North Dakota, killing 34.


Since its inception service has run from Chicago to Spokane, and split into Seattle and Portland sections (except during the Amtrak era between 1971 and 1981, when there was no Portland section). Prior to 1971, the Chicago to St. Paul leg of the train's route was operated by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad was a railroad that operated in the Midwestern United States. Commonly referred to as the Burlington or as the Q, the Burlington Route served a large area, including extensive trackage in the states of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri,...

 via its mainline along the Mississippi River through Wisconsin. The service also used to operate directly westward from the Twin Cities before turning north in Willmar, Minnesota
Willmar, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 18,351 people, 7,302 households, and 4,461 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,549.9 people per square mile . There were 7,789 housing units at an average density of 657.8 per square mile...

 to reach Fargo. The Spokane-Portland section of the train was historically operated by the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway
Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway
The Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway was a United States-based railroad incorporated in 1905. It was a joint venture by the Great Northern Railway and the Northern Pacific Railway to build a railroad along the north bank of the Columbia River....

.

After 1971 Amtrak assumed operation of the train and shifted the Chicago to St. Paul leg to the Milwaukee Road mainline route through Milwaukee along the route formerly used by the Hiawatha
Hiawatha (passenger train)
The Hiawathas were named passenger trains operated by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad , and traveled from Chicago to the Twin Cities in Minnesota. The original train takes its name from The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow...

 trains to the Twin Cities and Pacific Northwest.

In the January 2011 issue of Trains Magazine, this route was listed as one of five routes to be looked at by Amtrak in FY 2012 and examined like previous routes (Sunset, Eagle, Zephyr, Capitol, and Cardinal) were examined in FY 2010.

Ridership and revenue

In fiscal year 2007, the Empire Builder carried over a half million passengers, maintaining its status as the most popular long-distance train in Amtrak's national system. In fiscal 2008, ridership grew by 9.8% to 554,266, although that year was marked by especially high fuel prices, and the number of passengers declined by 7% to 515,444 in 2009. It generated over $54 million in revenue that year, trailing only the Acela Express
Acela Express
The Acela Express is Amtrak's high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor in the Northeast United States between Washington, D.C., and Boston via Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York...

, Northeast Regional, and Auto Train
Auto Train
Auto Train is an scheduled train service for passengers and their automobiles operated by Amtrak between Lorton, Virginia , and Sanford, Florida . Although there are similar services around the world, the Auto Train is the only one of its kind in the United States...

. In 2007 and 2008, it ranked third. About 65% of the cost of operating the train is covered by fare revenue, a rate among Amtrak's long-distance trains second only to the specialized East Coast Auto Train.

During fiscal year 2010, the Empire Builder carried a total of 533,493 passengers, a 3.5% increase from FY 2009's total of 515,444 passengers. This made the Empire Builder the most popular long-distance train in the Amtrak system. The train had a total revenue of $58,497,143 in FY 2010, an increase of 8.2% from FY 2009's total of $54,064,861.

Flooding problems

The line has come under threat from flooding multiple times, and has occasionally had to suspend or alter service when waters rise. While most service gets restored in days or weeks, the rising water of Devils Lake in North Dakota
North Dakota
North Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America, along the Canadian border. The state is bordered by Canada to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south and Montana to the west. North Dakota is the 19th-largest state by area in the U.S....

, which has no natural outlet, poses a more long-standing threat to the route. Amtrak has stated that they will suspend operations over a bridge near Churchs Ferry
Churchs Ferry, North Dakota
-History:The waters level in Devils Lake began rising in the early 1990s, and more than 400 homes around the lake have been relocated or destroyed. This includes the city of Churchs Ferry, one of two municipalities that have been bought out by government agencies...

 if water reaches the level of 1453 feet (442.9 m). By April 2010, the water level at that point had reached 1450 ft (442 m). BNSF estimates that it will cost US$100 million to upgrade the line in the area to keep traffic moving. If the water level limit is reached, service will be rerouted to the south, dropping service to Rugby
Rugby, North Dakota
Rugby is a city in Pierce County, North Dakota in the United States. It is the county seat of Pierce County. The population was 2,876 at the 2010 census. Rugby was founded in 1886.Rugby is often billed as being the geographic center of North America....

, Devils Lake
Devils Lake, North Dakota
As of the 2000 Census, there were 7,222 people, 3,127 households, and 1,773 families residing in the city. The population density was . There were 3,508 housing units at an average density of . The racial makeup of the city was 89.23% White, 0.22% African American, 7.84% Native American, 0.28%...

, and Grand Forks
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Grand Forks is the third-largest city in the U.S. state of North Dakota and the county seat of Grand Forks County. According to the 2010 census, the city's population was 52,838, while that of the city and surrounding metropolitan area was 98,461...

.

In August 2010, despite BNSF ceasing freight activity along this section of track, it was reported that North Dakota's members of the House of Representatives and the Senate had declared that there will be no reroute, as suggested by BNSF, to go directly between Fargo, ND, and Minot, ND, and possibly serve New Rockford, ND. Instead, they have declared that they will "find the necessary funding needed" in order to help Amtrak cover the maintenance costs handed off by BNSF for continued use.

In the spring/summer of 2011, flooding of the Souris river in and near Minot, ND prevented the Empire Builder from traveling through Minot in the latter part of June, and for the majority of the month of July. For some of that time, on the eastern end of the route, the Empire Builder [with a typical consist of only four cars] ran from Chicago and terminated in Minneapolis/St Paul; on the western end, the Empire Builder terminated in Havre, MT. (There was also flooding in other locations along the route of the Empire Builder, such as near Devils Lake, ND. Further west, areas along the Missouri river also flooded.)

Former stops

In 1970, the flooding of Lake Koocanusa
Lake Koocanusa
Lake Koocanusa is a reservoir in British Columbia and Montana formed by the damming of the Kootenai River by the Libby Dam in 1975....

 necessitated the realignment of 60 miles of track and the construction of Flathead Tunnel
Flathead Tunnel
The Flathead Tunnel is a 7.01-mile railroad tunnel in the Rocky Mountains approximately 42 miles to the west of Whitefish, Montana. It is the second-longest tunnel in the United States...

 forcing the Empire Builder to drop service to Eureka, Montana
Eureka, Montana
Eureka is a town in Lincoln County, Montana, United States. The population was 1,017 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Eureka is located at , approximately from Kalispell....

. The Empire Builder also served Troy, Montana
Troy, Montana
Troy is a city in Lincoln County, Montana, United States. The population was 957 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Troy is located at ....

 until February 15, 1973. On October 1, 1979 Amtrak moved the Empire Builder to operate over the North Coast Hiawathas old route between Minneapolis and Fargo, North Dakota
Fargo, North Dakota
Fargo is the largest city in the U.S. state of North Dakota and the county seat of Cass County. In 2010, its population was 105,549, and it had an estimated metropolitan population of 208,777...

. With this alignment change, the Empire Builder dropped Willmar, Minnesota
Willmar, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 18,351 people, 7,302 households, and 4,461 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,549.9 people per square mile . There were 7,789 housing units at an average density of 657.8 per square mile...

, Morris, Minnesota
Morris, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,068 people, 1,929 households, and 985 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,183.2 people per square mile . There were 2,067 housing units at an average density of 482.6 per square mile...

 and Breckenridge, Minnesota
Breckenridge, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,559 people, 1,438 households, and 911 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,516.4 people per square mile . There were 1,582 housing units at an average density of 674.0 per square mile...

, while adding St. Cloud, Minnesota
St. Cloud, Minnesota
St. Cloud is a city in the U.S. state of Minnesota and the largest population center in the state's central region. The population was 65,842 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Stearns County...

, Staples, Minnesota
Staples, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,104 people, 1,278 households, and 732 families residing in the city. The population density was 684.5 people per square mile . There were 1,436 housing units at an average density of 316.7 per square mile...

 and Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
-Demographics:As of the official census of 2000, there were 7,348 people, 3,319 households, and 1,845 families permanently residing in the city. The population density was 980.4 people per square mile . There were 3,782 housing units at an average density of 504.6 per square mile...

. Another alignment change came on October 25, 1981, when the Seattle section moved from the old Milwaukee Road to the Burlington Northern Railroad
Burlington Northern Railroad
The Burlington Northern Railroad was a United States-based railroad company formed from a merger of four major U.S. railroads. Burlington Northern operated between 1970 and 1996....

's line through the Cascade Tunnel
Cascade Tunnel
The Cascade Tunnel refers to two tunnels at Stevens Pass through the Cascade Mountains, approximately to the east of Everett, Washington. The first Cascade Tunnel was a 2.63-mile long single track railroad, built by the Great Northern Railway in 1900 to avoid problems caused by heavy winter...

 over Stevens Pass
Stevens Pass
Stevens Pass is a mountain pass through the Cascade Mountains located at the border of King County and Chelan County in Washington, United States....

. This change eliminated service to Yakima, Washington
Yakima, Washington
Yakima is an American city southeast of Mount Rainier National Park and the county seat of Yakima County, Washington, United States, and the eighth largest city by population in the state itself. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 91,196 and a metropolitan population of...

, Ellensburg, Washington
Ellensburg, Washington
Ellensburg is a city in, and the county seat of, Kittitas County, Washington, United States. The population was 18,174 at the 2010 census. The population was 18,250 at 2011 Estimate from Office of Financial Management. Ellensburg is located just east of the Cascade Range on I-90 and is known as the...

 and Auburn, Washington
Auburn, Washington
-Parks:Auburn has an extensive system of parks, open space and urban trails comprising 29 developed parks, 5 undeveloped sites under planning, 2 skate parks, 2 water roatary parks, and over of trails , and almost of open space for passive and active recreation.-Environmental Park:The Auburn...

.

It is proposed that the Empire Builder, along with the Hiawatha Service would shift one stop north to North Glenview
North Glenview (Metra)
North Glenview Station is one of two commuter railroad stations on Metra's Milwaukee District/North Line in Glenview, Illinois. The station is located at 3000 Old Willow Road, is away from Union Station, the southern terminus of the line, and serves commuters between Union Station and Fox Lake,...

 in Glenview
Glenview, Cook County, Illinois
Glenview is a suburban village located approximately north of downtown Chicago in Cook County, Illinois. As of the 2000 census, the village population was 41,847...

, Illinois. This move would eliminate lengthy stops which block traffic on Glenview Road. This move would involve reconstruction of the North Glenview station to handle the additional traffic, and depends on commitments from Glenview, the Illinois General Assembly
Illinois General Assembly
The Illinois General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Illinois and comprises the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate. The General Assembly was created by the first state constitution adopted in 1818. Illinois has 59 legislative districts, with two...

 and Metra. In Minnesota, the Builder is expected to return to Saint Paul Union Depot
Saint Paul Union Depot
The Saint Paul Union Depot was the main train station in the city of Saint Paul, Minnesota. The Saint Paul Union Depot Company controlled of St. Paul trackage and terminal facilities, including the depot building...

 in 2012, 41 years after it last served the station the day before the formation of Amtrak.

Current equipment used

The present-day Empire Builder uses Amtrak's double-deck Superliner
Superliner (railcar)
The Superliner is a double decker passenger car used by Amtrak on long haul trains that do not use the Northeast Corridor. The initial cars were built by Pullman-Standard in the late 1970s and a second order was built in the mid 1990s by Bombardier Transportation...

 equipment. The Empire Builder was the first train to receive this equipment in 1979. In Summer, 2005 the train was "re-launched" with newly-refurbished equipment. A typical 2005 train would consist of (destination noted after the Spokane split):
  • Two GE P42 "Genesis" Locomotives


In Spokane the train is split into two pieces. The locomotives along with the first seven cars continue onto Seattle. Another single locomotive which is stored in Spokane hooks onto the last four cars and takes the train to Portland. The opposite of this happens going eastbound. During peak seasons a single coach car often runs on the back of the train between Chicago and St. Paul. It is left at Midway Station for the next day's return trip to pick up. This car operates as train number "807/808." This adds capacity during especially busy times in the year.

Historical equipment used

A 1929 consist:
  • S-1 or S-2 class 4-8-4
    4-8-4
    Under the Whyte notation classification of steam locomotives, 4-8-4 represents the wheel arrangement of four leading wheels on two axles , eight powered and coupled driving wheels on four axles, and four trailing wheels on two axles .Other equivalent classifications are:UIC classification: 2D2...

     steam locomotive

In 1947, each train consisted of:
  • A-A Set of EMD E-7 diesel units

The eastbound consist on July 4, 1963:
  • A-B-B-A Set of EMD F-7 diesel units

Car ownership on this train was by-and-large split between the Great Northern and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad was a railroad that operated in the Midwestern United States. Commonly referred to as the Burlington or as the Q, the Burlington Route served a large area, including extensive trackage in the states of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri,...

 (CB&Q), though a couple of cars in the original consists were owned by the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway
Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway
The Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway was a United States-based railroad incorporated in 1905. It was a joint venture by the Great Northern Railway and the Northern Pacific Railway to build a railroad along the north bank of the Columbia River....

 (SP&S). In this consist, one of the 48-seat "chair" cars and one of the 4-section sleepers were used for the connection to Portland, while the rest of the consist connected to Seattle.

The Great Northern coaches eventually found their way into state-subsidized commuter service for the Central Railroad of New Jersey
Central Railroad of New Jersey
The Central Railroad of New Jersey , commonly known as the Jersey Central Lines or CNJ, was a Class I railroad with origins in the 1830s, lasting until 1976 when it was absorbed into Conrail with the other bankrupt railroads of the Northeastern United States...

 after the Burlington Northern merger and remained until 1987 when NJ Transit retired its last E8A locomotive. Some of these cars remain in New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

. Some coaches were acquired from the Union Pacific; these also went to New Jersey. One of the 28 seat coach-dinette cars also remains in New Jersey and is stored near Interstate 78
Interstate 78
Interstate 78 is an Interstate Highway in the Northeast United States, running 144 miles from Interstate 81 northeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, through Allentown, Pennsylvania, and western and northern New Jersey to the Holland Tunnel and Lower Manhattan in New York City.I-78 is a major road...

 wearing tattered Amtrak
Amtrak
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak , is a government-owned corporation that was organized on May 1, 1971, to provide intercity passenger train service in the United States. "Amtrak" is a portmanteau of the words "America" and "track". It is headquartered at Union...

colors.

Further reading

  • Wayner, Robert J., ed. (1972), Car Names, Numbers and Consists, Wayner Publications, New York, NY

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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